Bernstein Crisis Management. Crisis response, prevention, planning, and training.

Crisis Manager Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management

© 2000 Jonathan Bernstein


This section of the newsletter usually only has a short "make you think" quote, but when I received the latest email distribution from, the "global portal for risk and continuity planning," I felt compelled to reprint most of their message. This is for ANYONE who thinks crises can't happen to them -- it's a chilling cross-section of crises happening worldwide and then broadcast worldwide via the Internet. Each of these is a case history in the making. Go to if you want to sign up for their site and distribution -- it's free.

Snow Brand HQ raided
News - Commercial issues - brand protection

Japanese dairy firm Snow Brand has hit the headlines again after police raided the headquarters of the company.

Radio hackers threaten plane safety
News - Sector specific - logistics and transport

Radio hackers have forced the British Civil Aviation Authority to issue a safety alert over bogus messages.

Intel recalls new chip
News - Commercial issues

Intel is to recall its new Pentium III chip because it has discovered it could fail under a certain combination of circumstances.

Virus threat to hand-held computers
News - Internet security

Experts are warning of a new computer virus that has the ability to jump from personal computers to hand-held computers.

Philadelphia buildings crumble away
News - Business continuity - facilities and buildings

Thousands of buildings in the US city of Philadelphia could be on the verge of collapsing.


Marketing and Crisis Management Acting at Cross Purposes

All too often, the Crisis Managers in an organization are busy trying to stay out of the press and draw as little attention to their people, products and/or services as possible until the situation calms down, while the Sales & Marketing team is blissfully carrying on with "business as usual" promotional and advertising activities serving the exact opposite objective.

The purpose of "routine" marketing and PR is to build the value of an organization. The purpose of Crisis Communications is to PRESERVE the value of an organization, which frequently means suspending or severely curtailing routine marketing/PR. You don't want to brag about your environmental record when you've just had an oil spill. You don't want to heavily promote a product which is under recall.

EVERYONE involved in company communications needs to sit down together at the start of a crisis situation (or,if you have the luxury, before a crisis becomes public) and decide what, if any, "routine" activities will continue to take place. Be prepared to suffer some short-term loss of new leads in favor of avoiding very embarrassing message conflicts that can cause a lot more than short-term losses.


Editor's Note: This article is extracted, with permission, from an Industry Report prepared by the Market Development Council of the National Tour Association. It has lessons for all of us about how to operate, and communicate, in a manner best suited to minimize the impact of even the most horrible crises. You can find the full report at their website,

External Volatility -- War and Civil Unrest

One of the sad realities of the world today is the fact that war and civil unrest, including terrorist activity and warring religious factions, to name a few, does occur in many countries and can seriously affect travel to and from those areas. Although there are violent acts of terrorism occurring in places throughout the world, the following case studies look at some of the most recent and ways to avoid losses in the future due to such uprisings.

Case Study #1: The War in Kosovo

As anyone who watches the news knows, NATO was involved in the fight against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and the civil war he created in Kosovo, driving out ethnic Albanians in an attempt at "ethnic  cleansing" of the country during the early months of 1999. With bombings and a high profile war, travel professionals feared a severe decrease in European bookings.

Case Study #2: Attacks in Uganda

The report of Rwandan rebels kidnapping and brutally slaying tourists in the Bwindi National Park in Uganda was a shock to tourism in that area. The victims were on a tour to view gorillas in one of the biggest and most adventurous parks in Uganda. Tour operators were halting tours after the closing of the park on March 1, 1999. Postponing scheduled departures, making refunds to clients or attempting to book clients to neighboring Kenya and Tanzania were all methods of reacting to this crisis.

Case Study #3: Protests in Jamaica

Violent protests in Jamaica over a proposed tax hike and increase in gas prices in April of 1999, administered a beating to their tourism industry. Protesters who traded gunfire with police in Montego Bay and Kingston, killing six people, had tour operators, cruise lines and resort hotels in the area scrambling. Many cruise lines rerouted ships offering either an extra day at sea or stopping at another port. Ground tour operators were unable to transport tourists through the many roadblocks or purchase fuel with almost all gas stations closed. They had to cease operation until the protesters had been held at bay.

Case Study #4: Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)

The PKK is a terrorist group located in Turkey. Lead by Abdullah Ocalan, this group is said to be responsible for more than 30,000 deaths in Turkey. Ocalan was arrested earlier this year in Italy and is currently standing trial for his and his organizationŐs many acts of terrorism. One of the unique things about this situation is that the followers of Ocalan have openly and publicly stated that they will attack tourists if their leader is executed.

Case Study #5: Domestic Terrorism

The United States is by no means free of terrorists acts. From 1990 to 1996 there were 17 incidents of terrorism in the United States including the bombing of the World Trade Center building in New York City, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City and the bombing at the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. In addition, five planned terrorist acts were prevented in 1996. These acts were directed against local law enforcement officials in Montana, an FBI facility in West Virginia, communications and transportation infrastructure and banking facilities in Washington State.

Many lessons have been learned by these and other terrorists acts. Heightened security procedures at locations which are possible targets for terrorists has become a priority and continues to be improved and expanded. Too often the United States feels safe from acts such as these, as if they only happen in foreign countries. These situations remind us that they can happen any where at any time.

Crisis Management: Tour Operators

What actions can a tour operator take who has booked tours that are now questionable with regard to safety? Many can take the route of the cruise lines and alter itineraries. Notifying passengers prior to departure about itinerary changes for their safety can help offset upset customers. Clients who do not wish to change their itinerary can be offered refunds or alternative trips.

With the situation in Uganda, refunds or re-booking to other gorilla-watching areas have satisfied clients. Similarly, the various cruise lines stated that the change in cruise itineraries to avoid portions of the Adriatic close to the Kosovo conflict did not cause problems with cruise passengers during that conflict.

Another option for tour operators is to work with tour suppliers on deposit deadlines. As some time elapses and the initial fears have subsided, many travelers will be willing to continue to a certain destination that may have been in question just months prior. Asking for extended deposit deadlines with tour suppliers can often help fill seats that may have otherwise been empty.

Local tour operators in outbound destinations can be a great help in monitoring situations and assisting in developing a crisis plan. They are more in touch with the actual situation and can funnel information important to crisis planning. Effective crisis planning involves a number of people. The more expertise and knowledge you have available, the more effective your crisis management plan will be.

The following recommendations are made for handling any crisis situation that may arise in your company. The steps are outlined as follows:

  • Develop a strategy based on a worst-case scenario.

  • Create a crisis team which will, in the event of an emergency, focus only on the immediate problem.

  • Rehearse the crisis plan. Try to contain bad news, but donŐt suppress it. National news stories can generally have a negative undertone if communications arenŐt handled effectively on the local level.

  • Be honest with the media. Respond quickly. Provide them with as many facts as are available.

  • Make sure you have an overall communications plan in place before you try to create a crisis communications plan. What is the message your company wants to convey in any situation?

If your company had a tour of 30 people set to depart for Uganda a week after the slayings and park closing, a team prepared for worst-case-scenario travel crises should be ready to spring into action. Call the passengers, offer suitable changes in itinerary or, as a last resort, offer refunds. Being prepared and having a plan of action for such a crisis is the most effective way to prevent a group of unhappy clients.

How do you plan for such an unforeseen crisis? There are several ways you can be prepared for crises in other countries. First, stay abreast of travel advisories issued by the U.S. State Department. Travel warnings are posted on their Website:

Once on this site, you can select the countries you wish to check for any travel advisories. In addition to that, simply typing "travel advisory" into a search engine such as Yahoo! or InfoSeek will provide you with a number of sites.

Another method being adopted by many companies worldwide is "scenario forecasting." This is a technique that makes you think about the future and the changes that could negatively, or positively, affect your company. Your company would develop scenarios to identify major changes that could happen in the world then map out ways you would react if those changes occurred. The hypothetical exercise leaves you better prepared for quick action if a real crisis were to occur.

Another recommendation by experts in "scenario forecasting" is to develop a megatrends list. This involves listing six or eight things that are happening that could have an impact on your business. For example, look at what can happen with travel laws, agent commission caps, the future of senior travel, consolidation, etc. Try to think of everything that could affect your business positively or negatively. Then, map out a plan of action for dealing with changes in the industry.

Many suggest expanded advertising campaigns that stress safety and even utilize testimonials of people who are currently on tour or visiting your destination. The more confidence you can give the touring public, the faster your destination can recover. Identify the precautions that have been taken to ensure the safety of visitors, address the specific problem and be up front and honest about what is being done. In the long run, bad press can often be more detrimental than the tragedy that brought your destination into the spotlight. Keep any messages to the media clear and simple. Be very careful not to say anything that can be taken out of context, and point out any bright spots that might present themselves. Like the Jamaican situation, destinations usually need a lot of public relations and  advertising dollars to quickly reverse a bad situation.


Violence, war and terrorism are an unfortunate byproduct of the world in which we live and work. Civil and religious wars are still very much a reality today and have been in the headlines for most of 1999. As the three case studies reviewed illustrate, crisis management is the best way to prepare for changing tides in the travel and tourism industry.

(The National Tour Association is a non-profit organization of tour companies serving the packaged travel industry since 1951.)


Q: Is there any information on trends in Crisis Management?

CM: The Crisis Management Institute does an outstanding job of research in this area. Their "News Coverage of 1999 -- Business Crisis Events" report can be found at:


First Branded Issue of Crisis Manager Distributed

WELCOME to the clients and contacts of Don Martin Public Affairs! The Austin, TX agency (, became the first to brand and re-distribute "Crisis Manager" to more than 100 of his contacts. Don reports receiving multiple thank you's immediately, and I'm delighted it's working out for him. Additionally, there are now requests from agencies overseas to translate this ezine into French, Portuguese, Chinese and Lithuanian. I'm probably going to archive the foreign-language editions on my website as well.

"Crisis Manager" remains available for branding by other firms and organizations, allowing you to get credit for providing it to your own contacts. It means putting a "brought to you by" line in the masthead, using any email introduction you wish, but not changing the text of the newsletter itself (without specific permission). If you want more information on branding, or if you have the interest and resources necessary for foreign-language translation and distribution, please contact me,

Need a Speaker on Crisis Management?

Is your organization or one you belong to looking for a speaker about Crisis Management? If you like the tone of this newsletter, you have a preview of the style of my presentations -- I walk around, get excited, using plain talk and humor to make some serious points. I charge for speaking, but think the fees are pretty reasonable. If you're interested, write to


WANT TO COMMUNICATE WITH MY READERS? "Crisis Manager" is now accepting tasteful advertising from firms whose credentials I will first investigate. We are starting to look at the possibility of long-term sponsors for the newsletter. We also accept short text-based ads in the newsletter and on the website. Research demonstrates that readers click through from text much quicker than from banners, and text-based referrals are higher quality leads. Ad rates and specs available on request -- if interested, write to


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Bernstein Crisis Management's two diverse e-mail ezines and/or their associated websites are now also going to include book, software and related product/service reviews. To suggest items for review, write to or contact Jonathan Bernstein, Bernstein Crisis Management, 1013 Orange Avenue, Monrovia, CA 91016, (626) 825-3838.

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